Here’s a photo that I made a couple of days back while Darlene, Betty and I took a walk in the snow. The snow was so fresh and fluffy.
This is along a stretch of Upper Sandy River near Welches Oregon and Mount Hood.
As I write this the whole world is dealing with and addressing a worldwide pandemic called Coronavirus – COVID-19. This is a serious situation that we all have the ability to affect. Social distancing and self isolating has become a part of our lives. Those who are able to work from home are doing just that.
As photographers we can take this time to catch up with certain chores that are usually left for more opportune times. If you find yourself with some time on your hands during this odd time I have a few suggestions for you to consider that will help you in the long run. Let’s just call them chores – Necessary chores that are easily put off for later. These really don’t have to be unenjoyable, especially if there’s really no rush.
So here you go. 6 Things a Photographer Can Do While Social Distancing.
Clean your camera and sensor – Dust bunnies sound cute and cuddly, but they’re certainly no friend to the photographer. Most modern cameras have a self cleaning feature that one can use for most common dust specks, but in time there will eventually accumulate more stubborn particles that will need to be dealt with with a direct cleaning of the surface of the sensor.
Sensor cleaning sounds scary. We’ve all been warned how we could ruin our sensor if we do it wrong, or have heard horror stories about how a friend ruined their camera for good trying to clean their sensor. And, in fact, the earlier methods of sensor cleaning could cause scratches if an abrasive dust particle was dragged across the surface of the sensor. I was scared for years to even try it until one day I decided to take an older camera that I had replaced with an upgraded body and attempt to clean the sensor. This sensor was terrible.
I had done some research into the different methods and kits available for one to clean their own sensor. I decided upon one that had a sticky pad that you would dab onto the surface of the sensor. It worked great and at this time it’s the type of sensor cleaner that I would recommend.
But if you still are unable to build up the nerve to try this yourself you can still take some time to clean your camera body and lenses. Once this situation is resolved and we’re all able to mix and mingle again, take your camera body to a camera shop and let them handle the sensor. It doesn’t usually cost a lot.
Clean your lenses. Purchase some good lens cleaner spray and some soft cloths and take some time to carefully clean the front and back elements (glass part) of your lenses. While you’re at it pull out your filters and do the same to them.
Clean and adjust your tripod. We don’t think alot about our tripod until it breaks or quits working. And when it does it’s usually because we have neglected it. We’ve allowed the parts and pieces to corrode or to become out of adjustment.
Most all tripods have some sort of metal parts, be it a screw or the whole thing. Even carbon fiber tripods can have places where corrosive or abrasive material can hide. Saltwater and sand is the worst and it’s recommended that you clean your tripod completely as soon as possible after getting it wet with saltwater. Aluminum can corrode quickly and make disassembly difficult. Rinse your tripod with fresh water right away and disassemble and clean it as soon as you can.
Disassembling your tripod can be a bit intimidating at first but once you do it once you’ll remember the next time. Especially if you do it with a certain amount of frequency. If you’re unsure of your ability to reassemble it, take photos as you disassemble it so that you have some reference when you put it back together again. You can do one leg at a time so that you have the others to reference.
Once it’s apart wash and dry the pieces in fresh soapy water and then rinse and dry completely. Never use oil or WD-40 on your tripod as it will attract and adhere dirt particles which will hinder operation and wear the tripod out prematurely.
Calibrate your monitor. I’ve heard so many people complain that their photos, when viewed on a different computer or their phone, don’t look the same as they did when they processed it on their computer. Sometimes the photo is darker or brighter than it looked or that the colors aren’t right. There are times when someone is printing their photo and it comes back from the printer looking completely wrong.
Computer monitors need to be calibrated every so often. It’s not a difficult chore to do but you will need to invest in a monitor calibration device. It’s a good investment and once you buy one you will own it and use it forever. I use a Spyder 5 Pro but most all are good.
Organize and backup files. It’s easy to come in from a trip out in the field and download all of your photos and then forget about them until you have time to process one or two. They can all add up and then left unattended, including backing them up. Redundancy isn’t just a fun word to say, it’s something that’s important o a photographer when it comes to keeping their work secure for the future. Hard drives and memory cards fail. Accidents happen.
If you’re anything like me you will have ten times more unprocessed files than you will keepers. Create some hard drive space. Thin them out and backup the keepers. In addition to any hard drive backups consider uploading the master files for any photos that you process and finish to some cloud space. Most of us have some free space available to us from our cell phone providers, for instance. Secure some cloud space and create a folder in a file that contains the raw file, the finished processed file in a high resolution/non-lossy format such as PSD or TIFF and even your formatted jpegs for sharing on social media etc. If you do that you won’t need to worry about hours of uploading all of your files, good or bad, and you will have a secure copy of your finished photos, the most important ones.
Clean cards/charge batteries. Don’t wait until the night before a shoot to clean your cards and check your battery charge. If you have multiple batteries consider getting some small round sticky tags to stick onto the batteries that are charged so that you don’t have to put the battery in the camera to check the charge. Take it off of the charger, tag it on the end. Once you use the battery take the sticker off of the end of the battery and stick it on the side so you know that it’s been used and needs to be charged once you get back home.
Learn something new. What a great time to sit down in front of YouTube and pull up a few processing videos. YouTube can be a good place to learn something new or to completely run in the other direction, but you have the power to know if someone there aligns with your vision or not. Whether they have value in their video that you can use to make your photos better.
We have finally come to a place in photography where people understand that digital photos can be shot in a format that allows the photographer to decide how the finished photos will look. They are understanding that many of the processes are similar to what was done back in film days in the darkroom by artistic photographers like Ansel Adams. Talented photographers are usually also expected to be talented in how they process their photos in Lightroom, Photoshop or both. Find some videos that will push your understanding of Lightroom or Photoshop, or both.
Also, in this day and age, there are so many other options for photographers than Lightroom or Photoshop. Give one of them a try, you may like it better. Process some of your photos using the help of a tutorial video using software such as one of my favorite alternatives to Adobe, On1. Give some new software a try. You might like it. You can usually download and install a program for free for 30 days to try it out.
These are all ideas for things to do, but in reality they’re all things that we are doing or should be doing anyway. Zombie apocalypse or not. This is just as short list of six things. I’m sure that you’ll discover more things that you’ve not had time to do because you had too much time away from your desk. I didn’t mention cleaning out Clif Bar wrappers from your backpack. Now’s the time. Make social distancing work in your favor. Then once it’s over you’ll be raring to go. Your camera and sensor will be clean, your tripod will be smooth and functioning properly, your monitor will be calibrated, your files will be organized and backed up, your cards will be clean and your batteries will be charged. And furthermore you’ll be smarter than you were before because you’ve taken the time to learn something new in your down time.
Now. Tell me how bored you are.
Landscape photography has a reputation for requiring travel to epic corners of the earth to bring back photos of places that are rarely seen by most people. Or places that we’ve seen in a National Geographic magazine or a TV documentary. But from my point of view landscape photography as an art should include the photographer’s personal creative touch. It should be separate from documentary photography or marketing photos that are seen in magazines. It shouldn’t always need to depend on a location to send a message. I think that a beautiful artistic landscape photo can be taken along most any roadway if we learn how to read the details of the landscape.
A photographer can consider that landscape photography could be reduced to two basic types, grand landscapes and intimate landscapes. A grand landscape typically is a territorial view, or one where there’s a view off into the distance that includes a lot within its frame, whereas an intimate landscape is typically one that’s a smaller part of a larger scene. A grand landscape is more apt to include a recognizable location and is more likely to be location dependent and in a lot of cases weather dependent, such as if it’s raining and the clouds are obscuring the view. In many cases the composition of such a grand landscape is fairly basic and simple to find. I feel that a landscape photographer really spreads their wings when they embrace intimate landscapes. The photographer isn’t necessarily looking at an obvious photo. Many times it requires imagination and a little time analyzing the scene to be able to look past the obvious to recognize what is typically overlooked. Be creative in choosing your subjects and be creative in how you compose and photograph them.
Intimate landscapes typically include a small part of or a detail within a grander scene such as a small segment of a creek instead of the whole forest or maybe a section of the scene that is affected by some atmospheric conditions, think fog and sunlight as it filters through the forest, or maybe sunlight illuminating a curtain of moss that is draped across the limbs of the trees. I also look for designs and patterns within the scene, such as patterns or colors on rocks. An intimate landscape can include a part of the scene that, when extracted from the larger view and seen separate from the context of the larger scene, stands alone and on its own merits. Put the wide-angle lens away and use your zoom lens. Get closer to the scene.
It’s said, in painting as well as photography, that it’s not what’s included within the frame but what’s excluded that strengthens a composition. And this is very true in simplifying complex or, at first glance, generally unappealing scenery. Analyzing a scene and trying to find an interesting composition for a photo allows us to look deeper into the scene and to recognize what more that it has to offer. The first glance at a scene is like looking at a book’s cover. Looking further into a scene is like reading the book.
I tell my students that as artists we shouldn’t take the scenery at its first impression. In most cases we will take all it has to offer all at once. Instead take some time to stop and analyze the components of the scene and separate these smaller scenes and abstracts. Be creative and I’m confident that you will be able to stop along most any side road and find a photograph within sight of your car. No longer will a destination be a requirement to make a beautiful photo. You will be able to make a beautiful photo in between your forays to far off lands. Mastering composition of intimate scenes will also help to strengthen the compositions of your grand landscapes.
I was perusing my archives the other day and came across this gem. It’s one that I took at Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. I remember that it was a rainy day and I was having a hard time keeping the rain spots from my lens.
I’m sure that I decided not to process this shot because I didn’t have the tooks or the skill to remove them in a way that wouldn’t show. I looked at this photo and decided to try a more creative approach to repairing the damage the the raindrops had caused. I looked hard at the other areas inthe photo and was unable to find any more raindrops in the image. I think that I lucked out.
I decided that I would process the shot and the first thing that I did was to address the waterfall by creating a copy of the photo and applying a motion blur to iut and them ,asking that area into the photo again. It worked quite well.
This video will also help those who have wondered how layering and masking works.
Go check out the video and let me know if this was any help to you. Repairing Severe Water Spots In a Waterfall in Photoshop.
There’s no other piece of equipment that a photographer possesses that elevates the perception of skill and professionalism than a tripod. Walk down a pathway or a trail with just a camera and you’ll blend in, but put it on a tripod and walk down the trail and you’ll be noticed and recognized as someone who must obviously be taking more than snapshots.
A tripod is usually the first accessory that photographers will acquire after they buy their first fancy camera, but I have found that it’s also the most misunderstood. A tripod doesn’t elevate a photographer’s skill or professional ability. Sometimes it’s the photographer without a tripod that knows when and how to use one, but understanding your tripod (as with any other tool that you use) will certainly allow you to elevate the quality of certain photos.
The purpose of a tripod can be to steady the camera to prevent it from shaking during extended shutter speeds that are longer than is practical by hand, such as for smooth water photographs of creeks and waterfalls. It can also be used to simply allow for a brighter exposure or to give the photographer a platform to rest their camera on while they compose their photos. You can maintain the same position while you wait for conditions to change for instance. The most practical purpose is that it’s used when the shutter speed isn’t fast enough to hold the camera by hand for the photo that you are trying to make.
The times where your tripod is indispensable is when light is dim and the shutter speed needs to be extended, but the average photographer isn’t taking photos during this time. Daytime lighting can typically allow photographers to have a shutter speed that’s fast enough to eliminate motion blur for a clear and focused photo while handheld. Making sure that you have a shutter speed that’s quick enough is usually nothing more than choosing the proper ISO or aperture setting, as both can allow increased exposure without extending the shutter speed.
Taking photos without a tripod can be liberating, especially while hiking. A tripod can be cumbersome, heavy and usually unnecessary. Using a tripod can also limit creativity in composing a shot. You must fiddle around with the tripod to get it positioned properly to get the photo, when if you didn’t have it you can simply come up to the scene, focus and frame the shot and snap it. A photographer is typically more apt to wander around and find different compositions if not tethered to a planted tripod.
A tripod comes in handiest to landscape photographers as they tend to take their time composing, focusing, adjusting and reshooting the scene. In that case it’s handy to set up on the tripod and take the time to make sure that everything is perfect. It’s also used to maintain a composition while conditions change. It’s most indispensable to a landscape photographer than most other genres of photography. In the case where there’s a lot of moving from one shot to the next, such as candid photos during an event, being able to react quickly prohibits the use of one.
Tripods can come in varied levels of quality, sizes and types and made, basically, from two kinds of material – aluminum or carbon fiber. Weight is a very important consideration, especially while travelling, hiking or in cases where the tripod is carried throughout the day, but weight saving should never compromise stability. Make sure that it’s sturdy enough for the camera that you use and the conditions that you plan to use it in. Remember that we use tripods to steady our cameras, so having a steady tripod is a must.
When choosing a tripod, I’ve found that paying a bit more for one that is of a higher quality, like most things in life, will pay dividends in time. When I first started in photography I used cheap tripods, but after having a few break, typically with no way to repair them, usually at the most inopportune times, or being frustrated by unstable versions that would move in the slightest breeze, I decided to save my money and buy a sturdy carbon fiber tripod that will last a lifetime. If I had done so in the beginning it would have eventually paid for itself.
No tripod is complete without an accessory that attaches the camera called a head. The more inexpensive versions may have a head that is attached permanently, but most tripods will need a separate head. There are typically two types that are most commonly used – pan-tilt or ball head. My experience is that a ball head is the most versatile, reliable and most simple to use. A ball head has a spherical joint that can be easily positioned in many ways and then locked down with a single knob. A pan-tilt head has two levers that are used to adjust the tilt, elevation and direction separately. As with the tripod legs, buying a sturdy head will save you a lot of frustration and will last longer.
Carbon fiber or aluminum? Carbon fiber is always preferred, but carbon fiber tripods are usually more expensive.. Carbon fiber is lighter and will not oxidize or rust. There have been many times where I’ve been in creeks or lakes or even worse, in the surf at the ocean with my old aluminum tripods where I hadn’t gotten around to cleaning it before it started to seize up due to the corrosive nature of saltwater. Saltwater is terrible for aluminum. Carbon fiber and plastic parts will not corrode and will give you more time to get around to rinsing or cleaning your tripod. Keeping your tripod clean is an absolute must, so learn how to disassemble it and reassemble it.
I hope that this helps to better understand your tripod and how and why it’s used. My advice is to learn your camera and the basic principles of photography to allow you to know when a tripod is needed and when it’s not. As with any tool, using your tripod properly will enhance not only your photography but your experience of creating photos.
My latest blog post at my favorite Photography website, Nature Photographers Network.
In a creative slump? Perhaps you’re experiencing some discouragement because it seems like everyone else is creating brilliance, but your own worst critic, yourself, is telling you that your work is junk. Maybe you feel that you’re just not progressing as fast in your skill as you think you should. I’m here to tell you that it’s natural. We all get into a slump now and then. We have our good days and bad days. Sometimes we feel inspired and encouraged while on other days we feel uninspired and ready to take up another hobby like cultivating moss.
Click the link below to read more…
We’re focusing on focusing this month. How do I focus my photos is one of the most asked questions of me by other photographers. It’s a great question, and one that one would think would be pretty basic and simple. It’s usually the last skill that a beginning photographer considers when starting out but seems to be the toughest to master. I mean it seems that it would be pretty basic, what with the sophistication of the Auto Focus features in modern digital cameras, but once one takes a few photos and is let down by the Auto Focus Mode it’s easy to see why in many cases, especially landscape and portraiture, you will want to manually focus your photo.
There are several things that will affect the focus or clarity of our photos including a completely out of focus image, one where the focus is so far off that nothing is clear or in focus. That issue is obvious, of course, so we won’t discuss this in depth. We will assume that we are focusing but want to refine the clarity and focus of the shot. I’m going to try to proceed without citing mathematics or terms and theories such as Hyperfocal Distance, Circle of Confusion etc. The purpose of this article is to just understand the basics enough to understand how to overcome a common problem with focusing. Trust that this could become so lengthy that it would require another ten pages of the Mountain Times to cover it. Sometimes when someone is learning something new more information beyond what it takes to understand the concept causes confusion and discouragement. Once the basics are learned the understanding can be broadened in the future. I always tell people that if it requires mathematics to take photos I’d be a C-Minus photographer.
First let’s consider blurring caused by the camera moving or objects in the scene moving. This is not a focus issue but it can affect the clarity and areas of focus in the photo as you affect it. If movement is causing problems then your shutter speed is too slow. You’ll need to make sure that your shutter speed is sufficiently fast to freeze the movement. There are times where a slow shutter blur effect is desirable such as in creeks or waterfalls. This typically requires one to make an aperture adjustment to vary the shutter speed. Opened more to make it quicker and closed more to make it slower, but the depth of field will change with each aperture change.
So what’s this depth of field of which you speak you ask? The depth of field is how deep the area that will be in focus is from front to back. The wider your aperture the shallower or narrower your depth of field will be and then when you stop down, or close the aperture down, the depth of field becomes deeper. Remember that the larger the aperture opening the smaller the f/stop number and the smaller the aperture opening is the larger the f/stop number. Something to consider when you’re trying to maximize your focus is that the closer you are to the subject or foreground narrower your depth of field will be as well. If you’re having trouble getting everything in the scene within acceptable focus stand back a little. The same with portraiture. If you’re shooting with a wide aperture to blur the background intentionally you may have trouble getting the person’s whole face in focus. There’s not a lot worse in portrait photography than having the eyes in focus but the nose out of focus or vice-versa. Either stop down (close down the aperture) or stand back a little further or both. This works best with a zoom lens so you can recompose as you move away.
Hyperfocal Distance – I know. I said that I was going to try not to mention this but I think that curiosity will eventually lead a photographer to wonder. Simply and basically, the hyperfocal distance is the point where you will focus to allow everything from the foreground to the background to be in “acceptable focus”.
There’s a mystical mathematical formula to determine what that the hyperfocal distance is, but if you remember this advice you will get by like I have been for a long time without taking a calculator into the field with me. Here goes – I remember that I want to be in my lens’s sweet spot, which is the upper and lower limit of the aperture’s clearest settings. Each lens is different but the average lens is approximately f/8 to f/14. Compose your shot but try not to get too close to the foreground unless you don’t mind the background to be soft – Remember the closer to your foreground the less likely the object in the background will be in focus – And then focus to infinity on your lens focus ring and then focus back until the foreground just comes into focus. Then you will usually have the depth of field maximised and pushed out as far as possible while still maintaining a focused foreground. It’s easy to understand once you try it.
That may have been a long road to a short conclusion but just a basic understanding of how your aperture and depth of field affects focus allows you to take control of exactly how you will focus your photo. I hope that I made that as clear as possible.
Photographing The Columbia River Gorge Oregon.
Lost in The Mossy Forest.
Here’s a photo that I made yesterday while guiding my friends Al and Kathy Baca, from Long Island New York, around the Mount Hood National Forest. We spent a day in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and a day in the Mount Hood National Forest with a day of post processing between. It was a great time.
This photo was made while they were photographing bugs, flowers. lichen and moss with their macro lenses. I let them be for a few moments while I dove into the forest to get to this area. The roots captured my attention immediately. While I was there I felt as if I was in the realm of the forest sprites and gnomes.
This whole forest is in it’s Springtime best. All of the deciduous leaves are fresh green as well as the mosses. The forest is moist right now and emits a primordial essence and exudes an aura of primal simplicity. Life in its most primitive and its most beautiful.
I love the Pacific Northwest rain forests, especially in the Springtime. Consider a private Oregon photography exploration tour with Gary Randall Photography some day to explore some of the less visited places in this incredible state. I think that you’ll be glad that you did.
You can purchase prints of this photo at this link. https://gary-randall.com/product/deep-in-the-forest/
Critique and Competition in Photography – The Painted Hills in Central Oregon.
My son Chris and I took my mom to the Painted Hills this past Sunday. Mom had never been there and was completely stoked by its beauty.
I enjoy taking photo at this location with a long lens. I usually take my 70-200 and shoot little micro scenes of the textures and folds in the hills. I also enjoy the textures of the soil, but I have found that it confuses some people, I’ll explain later. On this day I used my Tamron 150-600 G2 and had a great time.
I entered a similar photo to this in a competition once. One of the things that I was gigged for was the texture. I remember that every time that I return to this location. The judge couldn’t figure out what the “grain in the foreground” was. I just slapped my forehead and fell back in my chair in dismay. I wanted to yell into the screen that it was coarse soil. I also entered a cool shot of the lava ocean entry and I was gigged due to some “diffusion and lens distortion” that one judge perceived to be an issue. The issue was the steam from the lava. I was taken aback by that one too. All in all I did fairly well in the competition, but after that day I became a bit disillusioned by professional competitions. Their critique gave me no encouragement or advice in how to improve my work, but I suppose that’s not the purpose of these competitions anyway.
Call me dumb or closed minded but I got nothing from the critique or comments. I think that competitions are fine, but really, I hate making photography a competition to begin with. I also question the qualifications beyond the certifications of some of those who are judges after the last one that I participated in. I compare them with “book learned” engineers. I’d love to have taken a couple of them out into the field with me and show them how I work.
All of the photographers whom I admire and am inspired by do not enter competitions. For them, I perceive, and I photography isn’t about winning. It’s not about professional credentials. It’s about the experience and inspiring others to follow their dreams and aspirations. I hope that I do this with my own work. In my opinion competitions only encourage the victors.
In the end a photographer’s audience will not judge them or their work by the competitions that they win, or the credentials that they earn but, rather, the images that they create that touch their audience in the most personal way, many of which aren’t technically perfect. And only you and those who admire what you do can actually honestly judge your work in a positive way.
Critique is fine, but ultimately it’s objective. And when the judge’s goal is to be critical of the photo, it won’t be viewed in the same way as the photographer’s fans. And it certainly won’t be seen in the same light as the one who created the image.
Create your work for yourself first. Break away from standards that are used to judge photos. That’s where creativity and originality starts. If you need advice seek it from someone whom you admire and trust. Take the critique of a stranger, no matter their professional credentials, with less weight than those who are trying to find positive in what you’ve done. And don’t get discouraged.